Good morning and welcome to your Wednesday Digest.
1. Session opens with calls for cooperation, if not agreement. Democrats began the 2019 legislative session in control of two of the three legs of the lawmaking apparatus at the Capitol. Unlike the last session when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, Democrats took charge of the House for the first time in four years and now have a 75-59 seat advantage. But even though government remains divided, leaders from both parties said they wanted to improve a process that has led in recent years to vetoes of big bills, government shutdowns and a tit-for-tat struggle over funding that resulted in the House and Senate filing a lawsuit against former Gov. Mark Dayton. (MPR News)
2. Republicans put their priorities on the table. Senate Republican leaders rolled out their priorities on the first day of the legislative session Tuesday, including child care, health care costs and simplifying the tax code. “We have a fresh start,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. “We have a governor that is now in office that feels like he would be more pragmatic. I had a good working relationship with [former] Gov. Dayton, but I think it will be different.” But disagreements quickly emerged over increasing the gas tax, extending a tax on medical providers, regulating guns and making health care affordable. (Star Tribune)
3. The environmental issues lawmakers will face. Road salt and crop fertilizer are polluting Minnesota’s waters, greenhouse gas emissions aren’t being reduced as fast as some would like, and people are concerned about the welfare of critters from bees to deer. Lawmakers headed to the Capitol this week will likely face these, and many other, environmental issues as they begin the 2019 legislative session. (MPR News)
4. Shutdown stressing Minnesota workers, businesses. Sandy Parr was so exhausted after working 18 straight hours at the federal prison in Rochester that she turned the radio up and rolled the windows down in her Ford Expedition late Monday night in an attempt to stay awake on her drive home. It was the 16th day of the federal government shutdown and Parr, a food service supervisor and nurse at the medical prison, was already feeling the effects of filling in for dozens of absent colleagues. To make matters worse, Parr is not getting paid for working 60-hour weeks during the shutdown. “The shutdown is a huge source of stress,” said Parr, who lives in Byron, Minn., and soon may be forced to choose between groceries and medications for her 14-year-old son, who has autism. “We all have to decide what we can pay now and what we can’t pay, so that we can have enough money left over to support our families.” Across Minnesota, the indefinite government shutdown is tightening its grip on federal workers, their families and local economies. (Star Tribune)
5. Feeling federal workers’ pain? Several members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation said they will donate their pay to charity during the partial federal government shutdown. (Associated Press)